Inspecting Property in Germany: 8 Things To Check Before Buying a House
Avoid making expensive mistakes when buying a house in Germany. Learn everything you should check about the property and its location before buying it.
Get a creditworthiness letter from a German bank to increase your chances of buying a house in Germany.
Write down the questions you want to ask the seller. It ensures you do not forget to ask anything important.
Explore the location where you want to buy a house.
Use Google maps to research the facilities available in that region.
Visit the local market to get an idea of the people living in that region.
Inspect the property building from the inside and outside before buying an apartment in that building.
Check the things that are costly to renovate—for example, the roof of the building, boilers, etc.
It will help if you have a rough idea of the property renovation costs in your region. It will give you the power to negotiate the price better.
Stay away from houses that show signs of dampness or fungus.
You can hire a professional in Germany to inspect the property you want to buy. Hiring a professional to assess the property might be a good idea if you are a first-time home buyer.
The construction quality of German houses is excellent. Hence, buying an old property is very common in Germany.
Table of Contents
You did the basic checks online to assess the property you wanted to buy. Visiting the property you wish to purchase is the final step in the evaluation.
In this guide, you will learn how to evaluate the property location and the property.
NOTE: The more properties you visit, the more you will understand the market. Thus, you should see at least 5 properties before finalizing one.
1. Document and checklists to carry during your visit to buy a property in Germany
The better prepared you are before the visit, the better decision you can make during the visit.
So, here I am sharing a list of documents you should carry with you during your property visit.
Creditworthiness letter from the bank
List of questions you want to ask the seller
List of documents you need from the seller
List of things you should check in the property
The first document is to support your chances of getting the property. And the remaining documents are to ensure you do not forget anything.
1.1 Creditworthiness letter from a German bank
Get a letter from the German bank stating that you are eligible for X loan amount. This letter proves to the seller that you have the finances to buy the property.
It's okay not to have this letter during your initial property visits. Initial visits aim to learn about your local real estate market.
But, sometimes, you fall in love with a property after looking at its Expose. In that situation, have this letter ready during your visit.
If your visit deepens your love for the property, the creditworthiness letter will act as a cupid's arrow for you.
1.2 List of questions you want to ask the seller
There is no golden list of questions to ask a seller. But, there is a golden rule. "Ask any question that comes to your mind."
You are investing a considerable amount. So, don't let any stone unturned.
1.3 List of documents you need from the seller to evaluate the property and get a mortgage
Here are the minimum documents you will need from the seller. Depending on the property, you may need further documents.
Grundbuch (Land Register) of the property
Teilungserklärung (Declaration of Division)
Grundriss (Ground plan / Layout)
Lageplan (Site plan)
Nebenkostenabrechnung (Ancillary cost calculation)
Wirtschaftsplan (Financial plan)
Wohnflächenberechnung (Living space calculation)
Energieausweis (Energy certificate)
Mietvertrag (Rental contract), if you are buying a rented property.
You can learn what information each document contains in this guide.
1.4 List of things you should check in the property before buying it
Here is a cheat sheet that you can carry during the property visit. We will dive deep into each point later in this guide.
Is there an aluminum or wooden frame?
Is there double insulated glass or not (for energy efficiency)?
Can you change the windows, or do you need Haus Verwaltung's (House Union) permission?
Is it natural wood (Paket), vinyl floor, cork, etc.?
Is it carpeted? If yes, what is the condition, how old it is, and does it need professional cleaning?
Condition of the floor
Walls (Wände) and roof (Dach) of your apartment
Do the walls look clean?
Is there any dampness?
Is the wallpaper coming off?
Are there signs of fungus (Schimmel)?
Heater (Heizung) and Boiler (Boiler)
Is the apartment building centrally heated?
Is the building using district heating?
Does each apartment have its own boiler?
How old is the boiler?
How old are the heat radiators (Heizung)?
Check the pipes going in and out of the heat radiators. Is there any sign of leakage?
Is the boiler for heating the property and heating water are same or different?
How old is the electric meter?
Are the switches in the apartment burnt (usually not)
Are there enough electrical sockets in each room?
How old does the main electric panel look?
Are there separate main switches for major appliances like the boiler, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, washing machine, and dryer? For safety reasons, it is good to have separate main switches.
How old is the wiring?
Is there any dampness or leakage
Do you like the bathroom, or would you like to renovate it?
Is it empty or fitted?
How old is the kitchen if fitted?
What does the floor of the balcony look like? Is it tiled?
When was it renovated?
What does the condition of the balcony look like?
Are there any signs of dampness or fungus?
Are common rooms like the laundry room, cycle room, etc., clean and maintained?
Do people living in the building use the common area often?
Is the parking area maintained and clean?
Is the condition of cars in the parking good?
2. How to evaluate the location where you want to buy a house?
To evaluate an area, you need to consider the amenities, infrastructure, and people living there.
2.1 Check the amenities available in the area
Some amenities your parents or friends might have told you to look for are:
Based on your preferences and needs, the list of amenities will change. But, important is not to give equal importance to all the amenities.
Depending on the usage of the property, the weightage of each amenity will vary.
For example, if the goal is to rent the property to a young professional or a student. Then, it doesn't matter whether a school is nearby or not. But, access to public transport and grocery shop within a few minutes will make the property attractive.
Long story short,
Make a list of amenities important to you.
Prioritize them based on the usage of the property.
Evaluate the amenities in the area to make sure they meet your requirements.
2.2 How to evaluate the amenities of the area?
Here are a few things you do to evaluate amenities in an area:
Visit them yourself. Visit the city center of the region. Sit in a restaurant. Check the hospitals nearby on Google maps and their rating. You can check all the amenities available in an area on Google Maps.
Ask the real estate broker. You can ask questions like, how far is the nearest school? Is it a good school? Do you know any fitness centers nearby? ...
2.3 Observe the people living in the area
A locality is as good as the people living there. Thus, getting a general idea of who lives there is essential.
I look for three things.
People from which cultural group lives there
Which age group's density is higher
People of which income group lives in that region
2.4 How can you collect data on the people living in the area?
Here are a few tricks that you can use.
Go to the local market and explore it. Pay attention to the people in the market as they are the ones living in that region.
Check the shops in the area. Does the region have more bars or family restaurants? More bars will mean the percentage of younger people living in the region is higher. Whereas more family restaurants mean it's a family-friendly part of the city.
Check what type of restaurants are in the neighborhood. For example, is it German, Italian, Greek, etc.? It will give you an idea of cultural groups living in that region. You can use google maps to do this research.
Observe the cars parked in the vicinity. It's an excellent way to know which income group people live there. If the neighborhood has new and expensive cars, people living there fall into the higher-income group. Thus, they can afford the higher rent.
Are the surrounding buildings in good shape? It is a red signal if people are not taking care of the building. It means they don't have money to maintain the property or don't care. In both cases, it's not a good sign.
All this analysis will give you an idea of the people living in the region. You will get an overall vibe of the region. Thus, you can make a better buy decision.
3. Six things to check outside the property building before buying
Check the following things about the apartment building.
3.1 Roof of the building
Ask the seller how old is the roof?
Compare the roof of your property with the properties nearby. It will give you an idea of if your house's roof is newer or older than others.
Check with the seller how old is the roof insulation (Dämmung). As sometimes, roof tiles may be old, but the seller might have insulated the roof recently.
Changing the roof is expensive. Adjust your purchase price accordingly if you think the property's roof is old and needs renovation.
3.2 Building walls
Are they recently painted?
Are there any cracks?
Does the building look maintained?
If you cannot judge, then
Ask the seller about the same.
Read it in the House Union meeting minutes (Hausverwaltung Protokol).
Compare the property with other properties in the neighborhood.
If the building is not maintained, you need to find out why?
Is it that the seller does not care?
Is it other apartment owners who do not care?
Is the property renovation planned for this or in the coming years? If yes, is there enough money in the building's cash reserve (Rücklage) to finance the expenses?
Based on your observations and answers from the seller, adjust the asked price or reject the property.
My 2 cents: I will not prefer to buy an apartment in a building where other owners do not contribute to the building's upkeep.
3.3 Building entrance
How do the post boxes look? Are they in good shape?
Check the names on the post box. It will give you an idea of people from which cultural group lives there. For many, it's important to know who lives next door.
Check the number of names on a single post box. Post box containing many names indicates that the apartment is a shared accommodation (WG). On the other hand, one or two names on the post box indicate that a family or couple is living.
Generally, young professionals or students live in shared accommodations. Young people like to party late. Hence, it can be loud.
Thus, If you want to convert your apartment into shared accommodation (WG), pick a building that already has WG.
On the other hand, if you prefer peace, look for a building where families live.
3.4 Notice board
Look for anything unusual posted on the noticeboard—for example, complaints, warning notices, etc.
Check whether the property has a garden or not.
Is the garden maintained?
Who maintains the garden? Is it maintained by the Haus Union (Hausverwaltung) or by the owners?
Who can use the garden? Does everyone have access to it or only you?
The answers to the above questions you can find
In the House Union meeting minutes (Hausverwaltung Protokol)
By asking the seller
Declaration of Division (Teilungserklärung)
3.6 Parking space
Is the parking outside or inside?
Is the parking area maintained?
How can I check the "outside" parking area?
For outside parking, observe the ground. If the seller or House Union maintains the area, you will observe no cracks or unwanted plants.
Check the paint used to mark the parking area. Is it eroded or maintained?
The goal of inspecting the parking area is to get an idea of the people living in the surroundings.
How can I check the "indoor" parking area?
Ensure there are no signs of dampness and the lighting is proper.
There are multilevel parking that use steel platforms to park the car. You should check the platform and make sure it's not rusting. If it's rusting, then you may have to change it. But unfortunately, changing the platform may cost you a couple of thousands.
My 2 cents: I prefer to stay away from buildings or apartments with signs of dampness.
Fixing dampness or leakage can be expensive. It might or might not be covered by the insurance.
Additionally, you cannot judge the extent of dampness by inspecting the building from the outside.
4. Seven things to check inside the property building in Germany before buying
4.1 Basement (Keller)
Make sure it has no signs of leakage or dampness.
The basement should be well ventilated. Thus, there should be no funny smell and fungus (Schimmel).
4.2 Roof of the property from the inside (if possible)
Some properties have a storage room or space to dry clothes on the top floor. Does it look clean and maintained?
Make sure it has no signs of dampness or leakage.
4.3 Stairs (Treppen)
During the visit, take stairs and ensure they are clean and maintained.
Ask the seller who cleans the common areas. Do the people living in the building or a cleaning company? The term for cleaning the common areas and snow outside the property is "Winterdienst" in German.
4.4 Lift/Elevator (Aufzug)
Ask the seller how old is the elevator.
Use the elevator to check for any weird noises or vibrations.
Old elevators might look and feel scary. But, owners in Germany usually follow standard safety regulations. Thus, you should not be concerned.
Check the monthly maintenance costs of the elevator. You can find this information in the financial plan (Wirtschaftsplan) or monthly maintenance fee breakup (Hausgeldabrechnung).
If the elevator is old and needs to be replaced, it is an expense that will come out of your pocket. Thus, adjust the purchase price accordingly.
There are three standard heating systems found in German properties.
Central heating: In this heating system, a central boiler heats all the apartments in the building. In some buildings, the house union specifies the boiler's operating time. So, if you forget to switch on the heaters during that time, you have to wait until the next time the boiler is on. I have seen a few properties practicing it. Usually, the apartment owners can switch on or off the heating as per their needs.
District heating: The property does not have its own boiler. It gets hot water from the central district plants. District heating is the most energy-efficient option.
Each apartment has its own heating system: In this scenario, the owner has a lot of flexibility. The owner can decide when to switch on or off the boiler. The owner can also choose when to replace the boiler with a new one.
Investigate the heating system installed on the property.
Check the boiler room. The goal is to get an idea of the boiler's condition. Trust me; you will know when you will look at it.
In Germany, the house union has a legal obligation to maintain the boiler and change it if required.
Ask the seller whether the property has a gas or oil boiler. Modern houses usually have a gas boiler. But, there are many houses with oil boilers.
If a boiler is old, House Union has to change it soon. Thus, add the cost to your purchase price.
Each apartment has its own heating system
Ask the seller how old is the boiler in the apartment?
If a boiler is old, you have to change it soon. Thus, add the cost to your purchase price.
Who doesn't like to hang out on a balcony during summer? So, if your property has one, check it from the inside and outside.
When did the seller renovate the balcony?
If it needs renovation, can you renovate it? Usually, House Union is responsible for the maintenance and renovation of the balconies.
Ask the seller about the future renovation plans. You can also find this information in the House Union meeting minutes (Hausverwaltung Protokol).
Get to know your future neighbors. Check the entrance of other apartments in the building.
Does it look clean, beautiful, and welcoming?
If yes, it means other owners will actively participate in building renovations and upkeep.
If possible, try to talk to them. They can tell you a lot about the neighborhood.
As a foreigner and an introvert like me, the chances of talking to a neighbor are zero. However, if you get lucky and someone talks to you, you can take this opportunity to clarify your concerns.
Here are some questions that you can ask:
How is it living in this neighborhood?
Is it their apartment, or are they living on rent?
Is it a quiet neighborhood?
Are there any complaints?
Do people fight on something during house union meetings?
5. Eight things to check when buying a house in Germany
You inspected the property building from the outside as well as inside. It's time to check the apartment.
Do the doors look alright, or do you need to change them?
Doors are not so expensive. But, still a cost you need to add to your purchase price.
You can find a decent door within 100 €.
Installation costs may vary depending on your location, door, and other factors. For example, it could range from 50€ to 1500 €.
Dismantling old doors and dumping them can cost between 10 € to 50 €
There are the following types of floors available in Germany
Vinyl or Linoleum
Porcelain or Ceramic Tile
Natural Stone Tile
Here are a few things you should check and know about the floors in Germany.
Hardwood is the most expensive and gives a premium look. Different flooring types have their pros and cons. Based on your wish and taste, pick one.
Ensure they are dry and have no signs of dampness or fungus (Schimmel).
If it's a carpeted floor, ask the seller when they last washed it.
If the seller didn't wash the carpet recently or it looks dirty, you have to clean it before moving in. Thus, add the washing cost.
Do you want to change the floor? If yes, add the costs to your purchase price.
The renovation cost depends on the floor type, quality, property size, region, etc. Thus, I cannot give you an estimate.
Best way to know the approximate cost is to check it on myhammer.de or obi.de.
5.3 Walls and Ceiling
Ensure they are dry and have no signs of dampness or fungus (Schimmel).
Do the walls have wallpaper or paint? Each has its pros and cons.
Again, there are many options of wallpaper and paint to choose from. Decide how much you want to spend and add the costs to your purchase price.
Changing the floor and painting the apartment is not expensive. It will cost you around 2000 € for a 50sqm apartment. The price varies based on the material you used and the size of your property.
The carpet's washing cost depends on the carpet, property location, and how you want to wash it. So, it can cost 10 € per sq meter to 40 € per sq meter.
All the costs mentioned above are to give you a rough idea. Check the websites like obi, hammer-zuhause, etc., to familiarize yourself with the material costs.
Tip: Always add 10% to 20% to your original renovation estimate. More often than not, you end up spending more than you planned on renovations.
5.4 Heating system
As discussed in section 4.5, there are different types of heating systems. This section will discuss the situation when the apartment has its own boiler.
Check how old the boiler is in your apartment. You can ask the seller for this information. You can even ask for the purchase receipts if it's a new boiler.
If the apartment has its own boiler, you have the freedom to upgrade it. So, you can decide to install an energy-efficient boiler to save running costs. But, you do not have this freedom with other heating systems.
Some properties have separate boilers for heating the property and warm water for a bath. In this case, I check both boilers.
The cost of the new boiler varies based on the size and brand of the boiler. However, it can be anywhere between 100 € to 800€ approximately.
Installation costs and ancillaries (e.g., pipes, fixtures, etc.) are separate.
Is the window frame made up of PVC or wood? Both frames have their pros and cons. In general, PVC frames are cheaper and require less maintenance.
Check whether the window is single, double, or triple insulated glass. The more insulated window a house has, the more energy-efficient it is.
When did the seller change the windows? You can get this information by asking the seller or reading the date engraved on the window. Most of the windows installed in German houses have the date inscribed. Inspect the space between the two glasses carefully to find it.
Check whether you can change the windows of your apartment yourself or you need permission from the House Union. You can find this information in the Teilungserklärung document.
A single 1x1-meter window costs approximately 100 €. Then, add another 80 € as the labor cost of installing it.
TIP: myhammer.de is one of the websites where you can find the renovation estimates. Check how much a particular renovation costs before finalizing a property.
5.6 Radiators (Heizkörper)
Are the radiators old? Do they need to be painted? Old radiators may look ugly. But, if they work fine, the main reason to change them is aesthetics.
Ensure no signs of leakage from the pipes carrying hot and cold water. If radiators or pipes leak, you might have to fix or replace them.
See if the thermostat is working as expected.
A new radiator can cost 70 € to 150 € depending on the brand and the size. You can check the price online on OBI or Hornbach.
Dismantling and installation costs are separate and vary from location to location.
5.7 Electricals of the property
Are the switches in the apartment burnt? Usually not! But, if they are, ask the seller what happened.
How many sockets do the property has? In current times, everything is powered by batteries and electricity. Thus, every room should have at least 4 to 5 power sockets.
If you do not have enough sockets, you or the tenant will use power strips. However, putting a lot of electrical load on a single socket and wire is a safety hazard. It may lead to heating of the wire and ultimately fire.
If the house does not have enough sockets, add the electrician cost to add more.
Check whether there is a heavy-duty switch for high voltage appliances like boiler, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, washing machine, and dryer. The property should have a dedicated heavy-duty switch and wiring for each high voltage appliance from a safety perspective.
Property may or may not have dedicated heavy-duty switches for all the equipment. If it doesn't, you should be aware of it before you buy. You can check it by looking at the main switchboard of the property. If you do not see a separate main switch for any of the appliances, add the installation cost.
Lastly, ask the seller how old is the wiring of the property and the property building?
The life of a PVC wire is 50 to 70 years. So if it's older than that, rewiring needs to be considered.
If you are buying an apartment, you can only change the electricals of your apartment. Maintenance of the building's electricals is under the House Union.
Installing new electrical wiring is expensive and can cost around 10k for a small apartment of 55 sqm in the Stuttgart region.
Contact the local vendors in your area to check the price. Google “elektrik erneuern” or “elektroinstallation” to find the vendors.
Make sure there are no signs of dampness or leakage. The moisture leads to fungus, which can go deep into places you cannot see with naked eyes. In the worst-case scenario, fixing fungus may take several days to months and cost you a lot.
Check the taps for cold and hot water in the toilet and kitchen.
If no one lives on the property, ask the seller to switch on the heaters to ensure they work. I learned this the hard way. When I visited an apartment to rent it, the boiler was broken, and I didn't check it. So, when I moved in during winters, there was no heating. Fixing the boiler cost me money, time, and inconvenience. So learn from my mistake.
If you do not like the toilet, bathroom, or WC, go to myhammer.de and get an estimate for renovating it.
You can also contact local plumbers (Sänitar) to get a renovation estimate.
6. Buying a house is an emotional journey
Finally, add all the renovation costs to the asking price to get the property's total cost.
If the total cost fits your budget and is fair, give the seller an offer. If not, keep looking.
Buying a house is an emotional journey. So, stay strong and don't overthink.
Paying a premium is okay if you find a property that fulfills all your requirements.
But fix an upper limit for yourself. And do not let your emotions get the best of you.
7. Is it okay to buy an old property in Germany?
Yes, it's okay to buy an old property in Germany. For example, I bought an apartment constructed in 1965 in 2020.
The owners did a great job maintaining the apartment building and the apartment. And so far, I haven't faced any problems.
The construction quality of German houses is outstanding. So, as long as the owners maintain the property, nothing terrible will happen.
8. I am scared to buy a house in Germany.
I can feel you. I was in your shoes not a long ago.
It's okay to be scared, but do not let fear get you. Do not quit on your journey to buy a dream house in a foreign country.
Yes, you may make some mistakes during the whole process. But it's okay, you are a human being, and it's fine to make mistakes.
Learn from them and move on.
Do not let anyone stop you from buying a house in Germany. Especially those who have never owned one themselves.
Do your homework, go out in the market, visit several properties and then decide. It's not rocket science. It just needs your time and effort.